Home sites and builders don't come as a package deal at Taverner Ridge, an upscale community under construction alongside the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge above Ridgefield, Wash.
While specific builders have bought many of the lots, there are a number of home sites that are available to buyers who want to bring their own builder and create a custom design that suits their particular tastes and needs.
Variety is a good thing, said Paul DeBoni, managing member of Taverner Development LLC. "We don't want uniformity," he said. "We want it to become a diverse community and are trying to get a lot of variation in house design."
Developments where you can bring your own builder are becoming tougher to find, especially in Oregon. There's a scarcity of buildable sites within the urban growth boundary, and developers tend to snatch up any available parcels and either build them out themselves or sell to a single builder. But for some buyers, the limitations of using a specific builder in a specific subdivision just won't do.
When married couple David Serres and Lorraine Prescott decided to build a new home, they had a distinct vision of how it would look --and more importantly, how it would flow. Accessible design was essential. They wanted a home that would still be functional if either ever ended up in a wheelchair or with a walker, as their parents had.
The retired couple looked at dozens of subdivisions from Bellevue to Spokane to Vancouver but couldn't find a builder who was willing to customize his floor plans to embrace the "aging-in-place" concept.
"The builders we talked to weren't interested," Prescott said. "They said they're too busy, that they have a lot of other people who will buy right off the shelf."
So the couple started looking for lots with the idea of building a custom home that addressed their needs.
"It took us about two years to be able to find a lot that wasn't attached to a specific builder," she said. They finally settled on Lookout Ridge, part of a master-planned community above Washougal, Wash., developed by Hayden Homes. The entire community is "bring your own builder," ensuring a variety of architecture, said Realtor Mike Anders, with NW Realty Group, which is marketing the project.
After interviewing several builders, they found a match with Kashas Construction & Remodel. In late January, they moved into their 3,600-square-foot home, which Serres calls "a fine balance of accessible and livable."
Hayden Homes was the primary builder in the first phase at Lookout Ridge. Other builders were sprinkled in to give the project "that non-cookie-cutter feel," Anders said.
The project is now selling in Phase 4, with 28 lots offering views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood and ranging in size from about 5,200 to nearly 16,000 square feet. The lots are priced from $150,000 to $235,000.
For buyers who come looking for a lot and don't have a particular builder in mind, Anders has a list of local builders he will recommend. But buyers can also bring their own builder and architectural design. The only stipulation is that all home plans must be approved by an architectural-review committee.
Different by design
The Reserve at Gearhart, a new golf-course community nestled between Astoria and Gearhart, shares Lookout Ridge's goal of architectural diversity.
"We don't want the same builder building all the homes in there," said Jeff Howard, the managing member of developer Gearhart Homes. "We don't want a bunch of look-alike, cookie-cutter homes. We want some variety."
It was also important to residents of nearby communities that the development offer a variety of homes and styles, said Howard.
Tucked between two golf courses, the Reserve at Gearhart is surrounded by greenspace, including 40 acres of dedicated habitat for the Oregon Silver Spot butterfly. It is two blocks from the beach.
"There was a lot of resistance to a great big housing development coming to town," Howard said. "There was a fear that a bunch of tract houses would come in and devalue surrounding neighborhoods,"
So Howard and his partners designed the development so "it's not a one-size-fits-all deal," he said. The lots range from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet, and buyers "can build about any size home they want within reason and deck out the property any way they want," he said.
There are architectural stipulations, however, that emphasize traditional home designs in keeping with the turn-of-the-century character and the charm of homes in surrounding neighborhoods.
Plans must be submitted to the development's architectural review committee for approval. The company guarantees it will review the plans and make comments within 15 days.
Prices for home sites at the Reserve at Gearhart range from $199,900 to $457,900. Gearhart Homes has started construction on the first home, which is sold, as well as five others that are expected to break ground by Sept. 1. Those homes are priced from $541,999 to $899,999.
Spec to custom
At Taverner Ridge in Ridgefield, D.R. Horton is building a block of homes, and the developer is negotiating the sale of another block of home sites to another production builder, said DeBoni.
"But we're purposefully holding out a number of lots for individuals to bring in their builders," he said. "We're looking for variation and different architectural types, so it looks more like a community than a cookie-cutter subdivision."
Construction just finished on the third phase of the nine-phase project. When completed, the community will have about 270 single-family homes. Lots available for single-family homes range from about 7,500 square feet to a half-acre and are priced from $160,000 to $215,000.
The final phases will have some estate-size lots of 11/2 to two acres that look down on the Columbia River.
Garrette Custom Homes, the luxury division of Pacific Lifestyle Homes, doesn't have a "bring your own builder" program, but it does offer a "find your own lot" option. Buyers can search the Garrette Web site (www.garrettecustomhomes.com) for available land around the Portland metropolitan area --ranging from single lots to acreage --and have Garrette build them a home on it. The company offers 24 home plans to choose from.
Garrette builds about 35 homes each year, ranging in price from about $450,000 to $750,000.
Connie Potter is a Portland freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Garrette Custom Homes, 11815 N.E. 99th St, Suite 1100, Vancouver; 360-816-2250
John Meogrossi, NW Realty Group, 4260 Galewood St., Suite B, Lake Oswego; 503-957-7767
Lookout Ridge, NW Realty Group, 7710 N.E. Greenwood Drive, Suite 150, Vancouver; 1-877-939-3100
Taverner Ridge, 1411 S. Taverner Drive, Ridgefield, Wash.; 360-887-3085
The Reserve at Gearhart, Pat Ordway and Sally Conrad, Windermere/Cronin & Caplan Realty Group, 1-800-920-4281
ILLUSTRATION: 4 Color photos by JOHN M. VINCENT / The Oregonian
ILLUSTRATION: 3 photos by JOHN M. VINCENT / The Oregonian